(CNSNews.com) - The man dubbed the leader of the free world -- beset by foreign and domestic policy crises, sinking in the opinion polls, and just clipped by the Supreme Court -- told a gathering in Minnesota Thursday that he's looking forward to spending a "couple days here in the Twin Cities."
"I've been really looking forward to -- to getting out of D.C.," the president said, getting a laugh in return. "Our agenda's still a little loose. You know, I might pop in for some ice cream or visit a small business. I don't know, I'm just going to make it up as I go along."
A subdued president of the United States told the gathering that he's like a "caged bear," who every once in a while breaks loose. "And I -- I'm feeling super loose today. So -- so you don't know what I might do. You don't know what I might do. Who knows?"
Obama, subdued and rambling in his remarks, said the main reason he traveled to Minnesota was to "talk to folks about their lives and their hopes and their dreams and what they're going through, and I want to spend some time listening and answering your questions and just having a conversation about what's going well in your lives and in your neighborhoods and communities right now but also what kinds of struggles folks are going through and -- and what things are helping and what things aren't."
As part of the Q-and-A format, the president spoke at length about the things he often talks about, including his own life and what he and Michelle "went through," and how he hasn't forgotten what it's like to be struggling to get ahead.
He also plugged "family friendly" workplace policies, such as a higher minimum wage; paid leave to care for a sick relative; paid maternity leave for both parents; and "workplace flexibility so that if you want to go to a parent- teacher conference with your family or -- or -- or for your kid or a school play, that you -- you could balance that."
'I was you guys'
In his final appeal, Obama told the people who came to hear him, "You're the reason I ran for office. You're -- no, no -- I'm not looking for applause. I want to make this point. I grew up not in tough circumstances but -- you know, I was you guys.
You know, somebody out here is going through what my mom went through. Somebody out here is going through what my grandma went through. Somebody out here is going through what Michelle and I went through when we were first married and our kids were first born. It's not like I forget."
In a question and answer session, Obama told the gathering not to believe the "phony scandals" they hear on television.
"[S]ometimes the news that's being reported on is really important. I mean, what's happening in Iraq is relevant. We got to pay attention to the threats that are -- that are emanating from the -- the chaos in the Middle East...But sometimes, the news that's coming off is just -- these are just Washington fights. They're fabricated issues, they're phony scandals that are generated. It's all geared towards the next election or ginning up a base. It's not on the level. And that must feel frustrating, and it makes people cynical, and it makes people turned off from the idea that anything can get done."